Jared Leto stars as Marvel’s “Living Vampire” – The Hollywood Reporter

After its bizarre cartoonish slant House of Gucci, it’s a relief to watch Jared Leto channel his desire for transformative characters into a film where that’s literally written into the role’s DNA. He plays the title character morbius, known as “The Living Vampire” in the Marvel comics where he comes from. Leto juggles the times as the brilliant Dr. Michael Morbius – who has spent his life searching for a cure for the rare deadly blood disease that afflicts him – with the blood-sucking monster he becomes, filling his soul with horror.

After a promising start, Daniel Espinosa’s long-delayed film only occasionally matches the intensity of the lead role, and Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless’ script thins out on the story, jerky stringing chaotic outbursts and action clashes that evolve into a painstakingly foreshadowed “sibling’s face-off. None of that seems to deter the staunch nerds, even though this new entry in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe often looks a lot like a standard text venom episode, without the humor.


It comes down to

Not strong enough to be memorable.

Publication date: Friday 1 April
CastJared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, Tyrese Gibson
Director: Daniel Espinosa
screenwriters: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, based on the Marvel Comics

Rated PG-13, 1 hour 44 minutes

A thrilling prologue takes place in Cerro de la Muerte in the misty mountains of Costa Rica, where a frail, gaunt Michael stumbles from a helicopter on crutches into the mouth of a cavern home to thousands of vampire bats. While the helicopter pilot worries about getting out of there before dark, Michael spots a half-devoured carcass and remarks admiringly that although the bats weigh next to nothing, they can overpower a creature nearly ten times its size. Without warning, he cuts open his hand to serve as bait.

Back to Greece 25 years earlier, where young Michael (Charlie Shotwell) is in a clinic under the care of Dr. Nicholas (Jared Harris) when he meets new patient Lucien (Joseph Esson), a British boy about the same age and with the same blood disorder. They immediately bond, with Michael nicknamed his new friend Milo and comparing the two to the Spartans: “We are the few against the many.” That is the only semi-observable reason why this part takes place in Greece.

Back in the story’s present day in New York, Michael has become a renowned physician, who takes his trusted colleague, Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), is shocked when he turns down the Nobel Prize for his development of artificial blood. That’s just the beginning of his work, Michael explains, where the “aquarium” — basically a huge upright cylindrical glass chamber — comes in full of bats from Costa Rica.

Both Michael and Milo (Matt Smith) are still treated by the strangely timeless mentor figure of Dr. Nicholas. Milo, meanwhile, has inherited a fortune, so he finances Michael’s lab experiments as he hungrily sucks all life in his seedy, playboy style, while his body continues to deteriorate.

Since the procedure to mix DNA from humans and bats is considered both unethical and illegal, the first trial should be conducted in international waters off the east coast, on a cargo boat manned by shady mercenaries. Martine injects the serum into Michael’s spine, and while we don’t see the actual transformation, we definitely see the end result spring into action, which is bad news for the crew.

The upside is that it gives Michael Olympian athleticism, superhuman strength, and exceptional sonic radar. Oh, and springboard skills that quickly turn into the power of flying. The downside is eerie bat eyes, a gnarled manicure, fangs, and a thirst for human blood that must be sated when the serum wears off.

The film from then on is basically Michael wrestling with his conscience and vowing that what happened on the boat can never happen again, as FBI agents Stroud (Tyrese Gibson) and Ramirez (Al Madrigal) investigate the string of violent deaths that happened there. to start. with corpses mysteriously stripped of blood.

The death toll is destined to keep rising when Milo gets his hands on the serum and reveals less qualms about his new favorite drink. “We’ve lived our whole lives with death over us,” he tells Michael. “Why wouldn’t they even know what it feels like for a change?” Besides, the bat transformation of Milo’s face when he’s on the juice works wonders for Smith’s cut glass cheekbones. But Michael and Milo’s differing views on mealtime will inevitably pit brother against brother, with Martine in danger in between.

While DP Oliver Wood films most of the action with the lurid palette that has become standard for this end of the Marvel spectrum, he makes atmospheric use of New York’s subways and underground spaces in several scenes. Jon Ekstrand’s thunderous score, with its pounding percussion elements, also pumps up the energy, even as the plot slides into repetitive grooves.

The look is boosted by the visualization of the sound waves Michael and Milo receive when in vampire mode, which bounce off people, objects and buildings in their path through the effects team. Their fast movements are also followed by a dye; that’s never really explained, but it looks cool, especially when Michael is in an orange prison suit or a billowing black coat with bright purple lining. Their facial transformations are completely digital, done without prosthetics, effectively bridging the gap between photorealism and comics.

But like so many movies rooted in comics, many of morbius seems to be the basis for more complex stories to come, and especially crossover chapters, one of which is set up in two mid-credit sequences featuring a character (and star) previously in Spider-Man: Homecoming

It’s just a shame that this opening salvo takes itself too seriously to have much fun with the chaos, despite the potential in Smith’s diabolical turn for some funny interplay between the antagonists. Arjona carries herself with confidence, but her character is also a bit lost in the carnage; perhaps the late-breaking romance between Martine and Michael will take on more of a heartbeat in the next round. Leto is certainly rearing a storm behind his veil of rock star hair, but the film lacks enough to distinguish it from the second (or perhaps third?) Marvel pack, ending up being more of the same.

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